9 January 2023

Love God, love others: Do we limit whom we consider to be our neighbour?

Commissioner Gillian Cotterill

Commissioner Gillian Cotterill encourages us to follow the good Samaritan’s example.

Key text

Many years ago, when we were travelling from northern Scotland to London on a cold, snowy January night, our car broke down. The AA breakdown service eventually arrived. The mechanic diagnosed that we needed a new part for our old Ford Cortina. He said that it would need to be sourced and that this would take some time.

It was such a cold night. The mechanic noticed that I was sitting on the back seat feeding my baby son. He took pity on us, put us in his van and drove us to his home. On arrival, I met his poor, unsuspecting wife, who was in the midst of doing the ironing. However, she immediately welcomed us. She invited us to sit by the roaring fire, made us comfortable, and gave us food and drink.

For us, the AA responder was a perfect example of what is widely known as a ‘good Samaritan’. We were so thankful that he went the extra mile and offered service way beyond our expectation.

The parable of the good Samaritan, found in Luke 10, is arguably the best-known of Jesus’ teachings. Many of us could easily retell the story without any problem at all. However, even with the most familiar passages, such as this story, I have found that fresh understanding of Scripture often comes the more you read it.

Pause and reflect

  • To what extent can you identify with this parable?
  • Which of the characters do you see yourself as – questioner, victim, passer-by or Samaritan?

It would be so easy for us as Christians – and certainly as Salvationists – to jump quickly to aligning ourselves to the good Samaritan. After all, helping those in need is our corporate heritage.

If you identify as a questioner who is trying to make sense of it all, what a great question to ask Jesus: ‘What must I do to inherit eternal life?’ (v25).

Typically, rather than spoon-feeding an answer, Jesus seeks to help the man understand. He asks: ‘What is written in the Law? … How do you read it?’ (v26).

For the enquirer, who is described as ‘an expert in the Law’, the answer should have been surprisingly simple and straightforward. It is found in the Law of Moses. In Deuteronomy 6:5 we read: ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.’ In Leviticus 19 we read a number of statutes that relate to people’s behaviour towards each other and God’s specific instruction to ‘love your neighbour as yourself’ (v18).

Pause and reflect

  • To what extent do we set limits on whom we consider to be our neighbour?

Look up Matthew 22:34–40. Notice the subtle differences between this account and Luke’s rendition.

Most noticeable is that fact that, according to Matthew, it is Jesus – and not the lawyer – who outlines the ‘greatest’ commandment: ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind’ (v37). It is Jesus who also spells out the need to ‘love your neighbour as yourself’ (v39).

A photo of two neighbouring front doors, one red, one blue.

Luke 10:27

He answered, ‘“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind”; and, “Love your neighbour as yourself.”’

Read the passage in Luke

In response to the lawyer’s question about the identity of his neighbour, Jesus tells a story that includes a figure whom pious Jews consider to be heretical – John 4:9 records that ‘Jews do not associate with Samaritans’.

The Samaritan, an outcast and outsider, shows selfless compassion and mercy to the man in need. Look at the way the Samaritan cares for the victim of the robbers in verses 33 to 35 of our study passage. He comes alongside the man and gives him practical help. His is the example to follow. We should not be like the ones who pass by on the other side.

Pause and reflect

  • When did you last intentionally go out of your way to behave as a ‘good Samaritan’?
  • How did that make you feel? Have you ever ‘passed by on the other side’? Why?

There might be times when we have a similar experience to the innkeeper and are given responsibility and resources to care for others – ‘neighbours’ who need help and healing.

Apart from Jesus, there is one remaining character that we might identify with. Perhaps this is the character that Jesus really wants us to understand.

Pause and reflect

  • How do you think the victim felt when the priest and Levite ignored him?
  • What did the victim do to deserve the attention of the Samaritan?

Perhaps the deeper truth of the account is that the man who is attacked, beaten up, wounded and left half-dead is a person just like us – a victim in need of personal care in order to be healed, a person who needs to be saved and lifted up.

The prophet Isaiah describes the ‘suffering servant’ – Jesus – as one who was ‘despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain’ (Isaiah 53:3).

In boundless love and grace, Jesus identifies with us. He pays the penalty for our sin, dying on the cross that we might be forgiven and healed, receive peace and know life in all its fullness.

Pause and reflect

  • Do we deserve the mercy and grace of God?

The climax of the passage is when the penny drops for the expert in the Law, as he discovers the answer to his question through the actions of the good Samaritan.

Finally, in verse 37, Jesus gives a concluding word and command to the questioner and to us, as we seek to love God and love others: ‘Go and do likewise.’

Bible study by

A photo of Commissioner Gillian Cotterill

Commissioner Gillian Cotterill

Territorial Leader for Leader Development

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